How to handle a cross – the right starting place. Remember Jesus’ words:
Mark 8:34When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Jesus began with “it’s not about yourself, this life that includes suffering and affliction”. How much wrong-headed thinking on that subject has infiltrated the church?! Affliction, testing, cross-bearing has little to do with knowing self and way more to do with knowing God. If that’s really true, if what is of greatest importance is knowing God, shouldn’t be a surprise that story of Job opens in heaven. First five verses introduce the character of Job, notice I didn’t say “the main character of the story”! That would be God.
Main story begins with verse 6, events occur in quick succession; messengers of gloom and doom hardly allow previous one to finish before they interrupt with own tale of woe. From the beginning, get the clear sense that all that follows plays out under watchful eye of God. Hard as it may be for us to sort out all pieces of the puzzle, some things are clear. God is still God, he’s given nothing up to us or fate or Satan. God is actively and intimately involved in the affairs of his creation. In Job’s case, God started it! God issued a challenge; Satan responded with an accusation; God laid down the rules of engagement; and Job responded to his new circumstances.
A. God’s challenge v.6-8
the setting: God’s presence; one of few times in Scripture when curtain separating us from unseen world is pulled back
brief glimpse in Genesis at the time of Creation; hints here and there in Bible, fuller description given in Revelation of what it’s like now, what it will be later
two things we learn: heaven hidden from our view, not necessarily far away; God is center of attention, the initiator
those present: God, of course, and the angels including Satan
angels, sons of God, summoned to appear before God on his throne and give report
important for us to recognize: angels, regardless of loyalty, are servants, answerable to God at all times
Satan the one singled out, called to account by God: where have you been, what have you been doing?
perhaps text Peter had in mind: 1 Pet. 5:8…Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
the challenge: check this guy out!
have you considered…? we might say “what do you think about…? “what’s your opinion of…?”
then God really turns up the heat: Job is the genuine article, truly righteous, one fully devoted to God, who does all he can to avoid Satan’s traps
everything about Job’s character and conduct fueled Satan’s anger, frustration; Job represented everything Satan wanted to pervert or destroy
same thing goes for all those who are righteous as Job was – Satan is our sworn enemy, would do us harm at any opportunity
can’t hear tone of voice in God’s Word; one thing is certain, God wasn’t being sarcastic; his description of Job was accurate
B. Satan’s accusation v.9-11
why shouldn’t Job be like he is? look at what you’ve done for him, he’s just in it for the benefits
you’ve built a palisade around him – Fort Western, Augusta – “a strong fence made of stakes driven into the ground”
an impregnable defence that completely isolates Job and all associated with him from external harm
whatever he does turns out well – giving counsel to neighbors, rescuing those in poverty, overcoming injustice
he has the Midas touch – based on evidence, can’t make a bad investment, net worth just keeps growing
life’s just a bed of roses for Job – no stress, nothing turns out wrong, it’s all good, what’s not to like about that
then Satan makes his accusation plain: take the benefits away and Job’s loyalty will disappear
really an accusation of insincerity, of hypocrisy – Job professes loyalty to God but it’s more like a contract
as long as there is material payback for Job to practice his religion, he’s in; when return on his investment stops, Job will look for another deal
that would be true for vast majority of mankind – as long as I get what I think I should out of the deal, I’ll go along
bear that in mind when you present the Gospel – those who sign up only for the benefits will bail in tough times
notice how Satan puts it: “if you do this, God”, not “let me do this, God”
attempting just as Adam did to shift blame to God, refusing to humble himself and ask permission
let’s stop right there: think it through, on personal level
if God started taking things away from you, at what point would your loyalty waver? start wondering if God was really good? begin questioning if God really is sovereign and omnipotent (in charge of all things and all-powerful)?
before you get all aggravated at the question or just dismiss it, remember this: no one in their own strength remains loyal to God
C. the results v.12-19
Satan’s challenge: take the benefits away and see what he does; God’s response: ok, give it your best shot
very important: Satan was acting under God’s authority; God relinquished nothing in this scenario
remember Satan’s charge: “you’ve made a hedge…”; God never takes it down, never allows it to be broken down, never gives the key to anyone
God may do for others as he did for Job – change the size of enclosure, what’s inside it; may be reduced to size of person’s soul, but if eternal soul is secure in God’s keeping the rest is secondary
“As great hatred as the devil has at God’s children, he nor none of his instruments can stir a tail of any of their beasts without God’s permission.” Joseph Caryl
Satan’s action: began process of coordinating resources – bands of cattle thieves, severe weather events, camel rustlers
intent was to, in one sweep of action, strip from Job all Satan thought Job considered important
one thing at a time – could maybe explain it away; all at once, no, God gets the blame for that
Satan does not have unlimited power, does have great power; can at least stir up localized bad weather – Jesus in the boat (Matt. 8:24-27)
calamity falls – in just a few short minutes Job hears from 4 breathless messengers: all of his substance stolen, all of his servants and all of his children dead
everything he had worked to acquire, all he had invested for time and effort in family and fortune – gone
Job, by public testimony, a relational kind of guy; his closest and most important relationships – 7 sons, 3 daughters, the ones he still sacrificed for regularly – taken from him
staggering, unimaginable series of losses – little in our experience or even in recent history to compare short of Great Tsunami
many calamities target one area of life: stock market crash (finances); dust bowl (possessions); disease epidemics (family members)
all of these ganged up on Job in one afternoon, at the hand of Satan, under the watchful oversight of God
D. Job’s response v.20-22
so who was right? God? or Satan? a person’s true colors show in presence of affliction
this certainly could be considered a cross of affliction for Job to carry – would he bear up under the load… or collapse?
if Job could bear his cross well, how would he manage it, where would he find resources to pull it off?
Job responds with grief… and worship
tore his robe, shaved his head – traditional expression of most profound grief
no sign of the Stoic here, attempting to rationalize away the losses – stood by graveside of an infant, comfort offered to grieving father: “yeah, you lost a baby, you can make more babies”
Job didn’t take that route out of his misery – he grieved, as he should, over loss of family
his grief was profound, overwhelming, but not out of control; didn’t lose sight of what is of greatest importance
grief expressed in context of worship – “fell to the ground with his face to the ground” NET
at up until then the lowest point of Job’s existence, he was still aware that he lived his life coram Deo – before the face of God
if life had any meaning, if any importance anywhere, could only be found in God and answers he might provide
notice where the genuinely righteous person goes when experiencing grief: to God, to seek comfort and strength from him, to be satisfied with what God provides
gave voice to his worldview: it all starts with God, it ends with God, Praise God
all Job had came from God, graciously given at his pleasure; if God decided to take it away, no cause to complain
Job didn’t blame God, accuse him of injustice; believed God would do what was right in all circumstances
Job’s faith in God strong enough that he could maintain this perspective even when he didn’t understand “why”
we know “behind the scenes” action, Job didn’t; but Job still more focused on bearing his cross well than in knowing why he had to carry it
also important: Job’s faith was in a God he knew – they had a history together, Job perhaps knew the old Bible stories, had a reasonable understanding of God’s character
that, the character of an all-wise, all-powerful, present God was what sustained Job in his grief
Satan accused Job of loving stuff, not loving God. Job showed by his worshipful response that Satan was wrong. Job had experienced profound loss but still retained his greatest treasure: God. So what’s your perspective? Is it like that of Job? Recognizing all that you have and are has come from the hand of God and is yours at his pleasure? That you are the steward, not the owner? That while people and relationships are important, a right relationship with God is most important? You see, knowing God is more important than knowing the answers. Our task: cultivate our relationship with God so that when Satan accuses us as he did Job, we will with God’s help prove Satan wrong.